How a local garden centre Chili Festival can teach you about adaptable spaces for unique events projects.
For those who were not at the Notting Hill carnival for August Bank Holiday, Frosts Garden Centre in Bedfordshire organized a family event jammed full of local producers, and Mexican themed jovialities. It was a long weekend of food, music, face paints, competitions, and chili themed activities for all the family. The main focus of the event was the large hall of chili food stalls with an area for the chili eating competitions, salsa dancing and the bar.
This year the event organisers at Frosts in Woburn Sands have expanded the venue capacity, branching out into a big marquee in the car park. Previous years have seen festival goers squeezed into the shop floor that usually houses outdoor furnishings and plants. This had seemed too small to accommodate growing crowds and must have been impractical for employees as the large garden ornaments were moved to accommodate the festival space before and after each event. This adaptation shows the flexibility of a retail space as an event venue and Frosts try to use the space they have to maximize retail benefit as well as attendee experience. Those who park in the overflow car parks, or even the park & ride, were ushered towards the venue space through the compound of the garden centre which allows them to be tempted to browse the shop for maximum customer engagement. I think this use of a more rural based event venue, in comparison to the NEC in Birmingham or London Excel, shows the adaptability of event space that can always be used creatively to create unique and successful events.
Hopefully Frosts will be able to learn from the use of this space for their future events. It is a complex event project that must battle to balance the everyday retail system of the business with the extraordinary weekend activities. This kind of event is a different beast to an exhibition space rented out for conferences or shows. This is a living venue that must accommodate high levels of retailing, staff organisation and logistics, and customer value. This was made even harder by the construction work that is currently underway in the home and gift shop at this branch. They are clearly seeking to expand to the very edges of the Woburn Sands estate.
There are clearly still polishing issues with larger events held at Frosts but each event I attend exceeds the last in terms of size and concept. At the moment I think the brand can work to improve the execution of their themed events, such as integrating the decoration and style of a Mexican chili festival with the venue space. I felt the atmosphere of this event was not so very compatible with the spicy, carnivalesque theme intended. It was more farmer’s market than fiesta!
Keep an eye out for family days, Christmas events and more interesting ideas in the pipeline at Frosts Garden Center. This is a great place to look at for inspiration for adaptable venue spaces. www.frostsgardencentres.co.uk
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